Saturday, November 27, 2010

Swarms – the silver hour : dark ambient

This album by Swarms (Kim Sølve, Petter Berntsen, Bjeima, qERiq, and others) has one of the softest openings I've heard, but one that swiftly turns into a menacing spectral apparition. Subtle, but in no way something you can chose to overlook, and absolutely frightening.

A friend of mine who is a psychologist once took me on a tour of a psychiatric institution where he was working, and the celler was in a total state of disrepair – like something you'd expect to find in Arkham Asylum. It was a pure horrific beauty. In the darkest corner of the most run down part of the cellar was an old wooden door, and I said to him "if nothing is locked up behind that door I will be very disappointed". There was nothing there of course(?), but if there had been I'd half expect it to be the contents of this album. That is the way it sounds anyway, like something you don't want to be locked up with.

The sounds are frailer than butterfly wings, sinister as razorblades and more claustrophobic than the worst italian exploitation film you can imagine. While the the type of sounds used might otherwise have come off as cliches in the genre, the way they are arranged and produced makes the album sound as fresh as anything you can imagine. Nothing is overdone or obvious and each sonic fragment is allowed space to stand out on its own. In a way each single sound contains a whole story, and the album becomes a sonic "Arabian nights"-like structure composed of a swarm of flash fictions about horror, depravity, frailty, fevers and innocence.

Attention also needs to be directed to the incredible cover, provided by Kim Sølve. The name of the album is reflected perfectly by the colors, while the mood is reflected in the design. It's like the pencilled scribbles, stains and mildew you'd expect to find in a sedated schizophrenic patient's hidden dungeon. Quite simply unsettling, yet sublime and light to the touch, like a fly walking on your arm before stopping to clean its eyes and wings.

It is evident that these people operate in a whole other league from the rest of the dark ambient / drone scene. The artistic execution is quite simply on a different scale alltogether. Like a rainstorm compared to a garden hose. It's simply impressive. So impressive I just simply have to blurt out a few uncontrolled expletives: Holy fucking christ, it's good! Mother of hell!

Usually I would say that the length of the album detracts from the experience. As I have said before, fifty minutes is more than enough for most albums, and while this album clocks in at about an hour I actually want more. I don't find myself losing concentration, but rather I get irrate if something calls my attention away from the music. (Evidently this is not an album for the mtv generation at large...) In fact the final track, "He Came as Swarms" is so good I wish it were twice as long...

And I can tell you: I am never going to sleep to this album.

Norway, CD album, 2010

1 Asleep in Silver Residue [2:38]
2 Children Mimicking Shadows [11:20]
3 On the Threshold of Morning and Fevers [13:53]
4 In Between Silences [4:14]
5 He Came as Swarms [27:56] Buy it here!

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